Gains/Losses: A Poem for 2020

“Those who walked in darkness”- © Jan Richardson Images

This year has been filled
with tension

Unrelenting see-saw
pushing us down, pulling us up
disrupting our equilibrium,
hurling illusions of status quo into the air
and shifting us-
back and forth
up and down,
this way and that

We’ve felt the weight of the losses:

The warmth of hugs,
a flash of teeth from a stranger’s smile
the intermingling of unlikely foods at a potluck,
collective release as weeping moves through a funeral,
the sound of “ohhhhhs” rippling through a live crowd,
friendships forged in classrooms, banter in the middle of meetings,
planned vacations, anniversary celebrations,
huddling around a birthday candle without fearing aerosols.

We lost the freedom of our bodies-
to move, to touch, to breath, to sing
whenever and wherever we want;
any sense of normalcy-
beliefs that plans made will be kept,
security that our wages will be paid,
and the delusion that “we the people” truly means all the people.

Breonna Taylor, Monika Diamond,
Steven Taylor, George Floyd
Anthony McClain, Walter Wallace
Ahmaud Arbery, Oluwatoyin Salau
Too many precious, Black lives

friends, family members, leaders and dreamers
whose breath and vision of their last day
was taken too soon.


We grapple with the gains:

The clarity of 2020 vision-
a removal of distractions allowing us to see
the viruses in our society already raging,
racism, capitalism,
over-consumption, individualism,
exploitation of the land and its resources;
the truth that an antidote will not come
through one political party, philosophy, or leader.

Reminders of what’s truly important for our survival-
valuing people more than things,
the health of our bodies more than their weight,
collective good over individual liberty.

Conviction that the discomfort of freedoms lost
reflect the daily reality of the unseen margins-
people with disabilities, the undocumented,
incarcerated people, the chronically ill
and medically vulnerable.

Deeper gratitude for the unsung heroes
healing us, feeding us, teaching our children,
making and delivering what we need for survival-
without adequate pay, protection, or benefit.

Reminders to cherish
every single breath in our lungs
and every person whom we love,
for tomorrow is never guaranteed


As this year comes to its end
and a new one draws forth,
let us not simply
“go back to normal.”

Let us hold our grief,
these memories,
costly lessons.
our loved ones’ legacies
and one another

Let us fight for people over profit,
effective health care and dignified wages
an end to racism and violence,
new political systems and radical redistribution
Creative ways of living and being together,
knowing that another way is possible

2020 may be ending,
But our work carries on.

Let us hold it for those
Who no longer can.

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